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Bob Lilley on Riverhounds SC rough start: ‘It’s a good character check for us’

Photo courtesy John Krysinsky

For the first time in his tenure as Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Bob Lilley’s squad has not picked up any points in their first three league matches, posting a 0-3-0 record.

PSN’s John Krysinsky caught up with Lilley in an exclusive interview session prior to Thursday’s training, as the reigning USL Championship Coach of the Year prepares for the Hounds’ second home match of the season vs Eastern Conference rival Tampa Bay on Saturday.

PSN: Obviously not the start to the season you would like to see. Can you share your thoughts with your team’s last performance at Louisville (3-1 loss) and start to season?

Bob Lilley: “This season, we’ve had lot of starters on field — not first year players, so we’ve had enough quality.”

“We’ve made critical errors. We gave up a goal in stoppage time (of first half) in (season opener) in New Mexico.  There’s no hiding fact that we made critical errors at critical times. We’ve had self-inflicted wounds, even with experienced guys on the field.”

“Also, I think we’re still adjusting to the new group. But, we’re getting healthy. Getting stronger. Today we have all 24 guys, including keepers in training, for the first time. We had to wait for bit for paperwork to come through. Kazaiah Sterling is now ready. Bradley Sample will be an important piece here, and he got his first minutes late in Louisville. We had to work through all of this early in the season. In past, we found ways to win games, pick up points when we were still figuring things out.

“We certainly didn’t create lot at New Mexico. Against Orange County, that’s a game we have to get over the line at home. Louisville did us a favor not punishing us early. (We) have to get off to a quicker start. Some of these things are fixable.”

“When (a team is) on bit of a slide.  You want to play. You don’t want to sit in it for two weeks. Having a week off though, has been helpful to go back and work on things and bring things up before the Tampa game.”

“We’re at our strongest, right now.  It’s going to be big challenge for us.  Guys are going to have to feel the heat. It’s a good character check for us to have a good performance.  There is a sense of urgency and it will be important to have good performance.  It’s important to win.  All of these things, we addressed with the team. We have to put out good performance. Wins will take care of themselves if we do our job better.”

“Hopefully we have a little bit better start to each game. This is not the first team to have successful season, then fall flat the next year. Think with a focus on consistency and with the overall quality of group, we can pull ourselves out of this. Look at next four games — very big challenges. There are some tough games coming up. It’s important to get results and start to show improvement but also get more consistency.  It’s time to put in the shift, make sure we maximize our efforts. It’s not the time for let ups or mediocre performances.”

PSN: How comfortable do you feel about your team’s personnel and your lineup selections? You mention that for first time, you have a full and relatively healthy squad. Some folks have been questioning that some players may be playing out of position. Will there be any changes to your lineup selections in coming matches?

BL: “As a staff, we know our personnel pretty well. Let’s take Danny Griffin as example. Last year, a few times, he was starting games out of the back — when Arturo (Ordonez) was out. In those matches, we had shutouts. In the back, Danny’s put out a lot of fires.”

“There are times where we’ve moved people around. I hear chatter, but not too much of it. Last year Junior (Etou) did a good job before Danny got here. (Griffin returned to Riverhounds in early May after stint with Huntsville SC)  Our record was mediocre — then Danny came in.  (Junior) has shown he can be threat in wide areas with his pace. Some things we’ve done have been based on injuries and other factors. There’s always a lot more to the story. Don’t think anyone believes Danny is not one of best 6’s around. But when have player like that, who can impact game so many ways, gives you plenty of confidence wherever he is. We were confident in staying with the same group first three games Didn’t want to change too fast to start the season. We didn’t get job done.”

“Now, what can we do differently? Who’s ready now? How does that impact the lineup?  These are questions we are addressing. It’s similar to the first 10-15 games last year. It’s normal for us to move pieces around. Obviously, we haven’t found the right combination yet. As staff, first three games, hopefully we’ll get better in terms of of lineup. Some of mistakes weren’t because of personnel we were playing. They were mental letdowns.  First 30 minutes at Louisville we were not ready for intensity and speed they brought. It surprised us that we struggled that much early. Maybe in those instances it’s better if (we’re) pushing ball up field, until we settled into the match.  Eventually, we worked our way through it and started to connect passes. Definitely broke down a very good louisville side in second half. I don’t think that Louisville team will give a ton of goals away this year.”

“We’re always looking at how to get better. Certainly will tweak some things. There will be changes for Tampa Bay. Some guys will be asked to step in — hope they can rise to the occasion.  Never want to randomly reshuffle deck. Changes have to be thoughtful. No doubt that as a group — we need to continue to evolve.  We have to be open to reassess.  That’s part of the normal process.  If (our) record’s good — that’s not judged or looked at microscope at same level.  We win — we win against Tampa people — hopefully we’re going to have to build up on it. If we lose it’s going to grow louder. Our job is to hopefully — the team and our staff –is put ourselves in best position moving forward.”


Look for more coverage to come as Hounds face Tampa Bay on Saturday at Highmark Stadium (7 pm kickoff).

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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